Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Do You Have Any Children?"

As I've said before I work with little kids (birth-5). I love their little giggles, snuggles, faces, attitudes (ha!), and personalities. Although I am a speech therapist, almost everything I do is done through play (especially with the really little kids). Parents need to be clearly told what early intervention will look like because otherwise they seem confused. Sure, I'm playing with the child, but I use strategies during play to get them talking and accomplishing their other set goals. The strategies aren't rocket science, but a lot of people don't think that way (using short and simple speech when talking to their child to increase opportunities for imitation, repetition and expectant waiting, labeling items of interest, etc.)

I always knew I wanted to work with kids. When I was a child I wanted to be a pediatrician. That was until I realized kids don't like their pediatricians. They are usually scared, sick, and unhappy to see them. 

Both of my parents have a background in special education and they encouraged me to pursue speech as a career path. My Mom did early intervention and preschool speech when I was in middle school and I often accompanied her when it was a therapy session after school. I loved it and thought it would be a great job. 

Almost always on the first visit/session the parents like to ask me if I have my own children. I usually reply with "not yet" and they don't tend to ask much else. Most recently the mom looked at me and said, "Really? That's hard to believe." Well, believe it lady!

Working in this job I am supposed to keep the family involved, give them strategies and "homework" so that their child can progress. My hour a week I spend with them isn't going to change the world, I need carryover from families. Giving someone advice when they know you don't have children is strange. Sure, I'm the expert on the given topic, but I often feel like they are thinking does she really have a clue since she doesn't have her own children?

Service coordinators come to sessions about once a month to observe a child's progress and answer questions/concerns the parents have about the program. They all have children and they talk about them non-stop. I always feel like it discredits or excludes me because I can't participate in the conversation. I just sit there and feel stupid. Hopefully I don't look stupid : )

I don't discuss my infertility with any families. I'm not trying to get them involved in the situation and keep my personal and professional lives as separate as possible. I just wish people understood better that I don't have children yet because we haven't been able, not because I don't want them. I want to understand and be able to relate better, I swear!

How would you feel if your child's therapist didn't have any children, yet they were giving you advice on how to enhance you child's development? Would you take the advice with a grain of salt or respect it? 


  1. I deal with this same issue. Even my boss says crap like "having children makes you understand better." I call bullshit. My BFF is a teacher and was one before she had kids. She reminds me that her teaching has not changed since she became a mom. And think about how much being a patient has made you a better therapist. I know it's made me a better audiologist and I wouldn't wish that on my coworkers for anything in the world. You have something unique to bring to your families. They don't need to know about it - just use what you've learned about having to put your future in the hands of a stranger/professional and channel it.

  2. I dont think you need to have kids to be an excellent teacher or therapist at all! Actually, i think those without kids are more dedicated and involved and loving than those who already have kids and their thoughts my be on their own children. I worked with autistic children for years most instructors were young college kids that just really loved children who were childfree at the time. Your job sounds wonderful. :) I loved when i got to work with the very little ones. So many funny stories to tell!

  3. I can completely relate to you. I'm a school therapist and use "play" with the kids I work with to help them accomplish their goals and get them to talk about their feelings. One of the first questions I get from parents is "do you have any kids?" some of the kids I work with even as me if I have kids. I know it has not given me that "understanding" that so many people who have kids talk about but I know not having kids does not affect my ability to be a good therapist. It sounds like you really care about the kids you work with and I can fully believe that not having kids does not affect your ability to be great at your job!

  4. My son has autism, and I don't think any of his special teachers have children. They are all very young and right out of school, as far as I can tell, and they are all wonderful. I am an expert on my son, but I am not a speech pathologist or an occupational therapist or a school psychologist...and so forth and so forth. It is taking a whole team to help him, and I appreciate every one of them, parents or not.

  5. Before I had my daughter I spent a couple of years working in pediatrics, and was often asked the same question and I always answered "not yet" also. Twice I've had confrontations with parents over my inexperience as a parent. One came right out and said, "well its obvious you don't have children." And another wouldn't let me do a procedure because she didn't think it was necessary and "she knew her son." I had to come right out and say, "Yes, but I know sleep (I'm a sleep tech). I am very good at my job and you need to trust that I know what I'm doing."

    It was frustrating some times because I always felt that when they found out that I didn't have children, they saw me as somehow less qualified.

  6. I would totally listen to a therapist without children. My nephew has a speech therapist who visits his home once a week and she is just out of college, no kids. He loves her!

  7. I've been reading your posts for a long time and upon reading this, felt I should comment. I have always loved children and wanted nothing more than to be a Mommy. Before having our daughter, I was always the favorite aunt because I was fun and more creative I think than I am now and when I'm around them, it's not all new and exciting now (that sounds much worse written out than it really is), that being said, I think a person without children would be a FANTASTIC child therapist. I also think that when you do have children it will change your point of view, but will not change much else. Right now you are probably a bit more idyllic, but that's not a bad thing. Before having kids, people say stuff like "I'll never let my kids watch TV" or "I'll always let them XYZ" but when the kids actually come, it does change...some. So, if someone asks if you have children, "not yet" is definitely an acceptable answer. I would trust you and your opinion.

  8. So I keep coming back to this post and trying to figure out how to say what I want to say.

    I worked for our state's child protective services and a home visitation program for first time parents before my oldest son came along. On occasion I was asked if I had kids. And I responded mostly that I didn't but that I had lots of education and experience (along the lines of men don't have babies, but they can still be OB's). No one ever pushed me on it.

    I fully believed that whether or not I had children made no difference in how I did my job, or in my competency. And in a way it didn't. But what I want to say is this - it's not that I am better at my job now that I am parenting. It is that I am different at my job.

    I never understood how someone could shake their baby, until I was standing on that precipice myself. While that doesn't make me a better social worker necessarily, it does affect the way I view the parents with whom I am working. I am both more empathetic, and less tolerant in some ways.

    Then again, I am a much better social worker than I was 13yrs ago, fresh out of school. But, much of that comes with experience. Some of that experience I have gotten from other children/parents/families, some of it I have gotten from my own children/parenting/family.

    I think we don't have to have done something ourselves to understand how to do it. But, the doing of it, it changes our perspectives somewhat.

    I hope that all came across like I meant it. Not at all condescending. Being a parent will likely change the way you do your job at least in some way, but that doesn't mean you aren't great at it right now. And I would absolutely trust you to provide therapy to my boys.

  9. And that was quite possibly the longest comment ever. Sorry!